NASA’s Mars rover survives dangerous sand dune

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The car-sized Mars rover, before it was sent into space.

Earlier this month, the team operating NASA’s Mars rover debated whether to climb a 3-foot-tall sand dune or trek across dangerously sharp terrain. It’s tough for the little rover, called Curiosity, to perform tricky maneuvers. Fortunately, the team successfully managed to land the rover safely on the other side.

The reason scientists directed the car-sized vehicle to make the crossing was to protect its wheels. See, the dune was the only thing standing between Curiosity and a route with fewer sharp rocks. These kinds of pointy stones had already created many dents on the rover’s wheels while it was driving through a martian region known as the “Gale Crater.”

Even though the dune itself might have been filled with rocks, scientists took the risk and drove the rover right over.

Now, researchers can direct the machine to the “Dingo Gap,” which is a route with fewer obstacles for Curiosity’s wheels. The data-gathering machine will ultimately arrive at a mountain near the end of the crater, to study clues about Mars weather patterns.

Images courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.